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Aireborough comprises three townships and two hamlets in a district between Leeds, Bradford and the Yorkshire Dales, on the A65 corridor. With a population of around 28,000, it recently lost traditional manufacturing employment and experienced under-investment in infrastructure as well as having to accommodate an influx of new residents.
Local people were concerned that the large number of houses built in the last ten years or so on old factory sites had not gone hand in hand with required infrastructure; schools were oversubscribed and roads congested. The change from employment to residential buildings was also perceived to have altered the sense of community.
Following initial research into neighbourhood planning, the ANF decided that the best way to improve the area's sustainability would be a placemaking approach: understanding what makes Aireborough special and what sort of place it should be in the future. There is no parish council, so this embryonic group was growing its membership and capabilities organically through community engagement. They felt that the best way to make this happen would be to formulate a neighbourhood plan and applied for advice from Cabe.
What we did
Cabe supported members of the ANF to implement a strategy engaging local groups, communities and businesses to create an outline vision. Through this, a strong forum of committed individuals was developed. Cabe Built Environment Experts (BEEs) led two design workshops for local people. These opened people's eyes to buildings of architectural merit as well as natural views and the impact any potential development would have on them.
Another successful part of the placemaking process was a series of 'place awareness walks'. Held over Christmas and New Year 2012/3, they gave local people an understanding of how Aireborough works as a place and showed them how good design can enhance or detract from the character of an area. The meetings, workshops and the walks encouraged a wider appreciation of the social and employment needs of the area too.
Cabe has given us motivation, inspiration, ways to communicate, people management and good practice examples.Christine Schofield, Aireborough Neighbourhood Forum
The group found it helpful to treat community engagement as a business that needed to attract customers. A website was a key vehicle in promoting the various activities. There were three community meetings in each of the townships, plus direct approaches to local groups such as a youth forum, Guiseley in Bloom as well as businesses, including those at Leeds Bradford airport and the retail park.
I now have a much better understanding of how design can help solve problems. It’s opened my eyes to design appreciation.Christine Schofield, Aireborough Neighbourhood Forum
Cabe has shown the Aireborough Neighbourhood Forum how best to communicate with the local community and develop a strategy to do that. The members of the forum realised they need to work differently, for example putting working groups in place to look at specific topics, and to engage with the local community in new ways that they hadn't tried before, such as the place awareness walks. Local residents now appreciate the effect the design of commercial buildings for example have on local views.
The ANF, with Cabe’s support, has also raised its profile with Leeds City Council, MPs and the press to put its views about the design of the local area across more effectively. Having BEEs attend a meeting between the ANF and the Council’s Head of Planning additionally gave it greater credibility.
As a result of working towards a neighbourhood plan, the forum will be able to have meaningful conversations with the council on its proposed sites for new developments in Aireborough. Members of the group can now see that there are some places where development is acceptable and some where it is not. They have adopted a more pragmatic approach to progress, using Cabe’s design-led process to build understanding of their area, a vision and strategic objectives for sustainable growth, instead of a rush for a neighbourhood plan.
Residents are more enthusiastic about the role they can play in Aireborough’s future development.
Cabe worked with the ANF November 2012 to March 2013.
Click here for further information about the Aireborough Neighbourhood Forum.
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